Holocaust survivor shares her story at Days of Remembrance observance

Fort Huachuca, Arizona–While she was never interred in a concentration camp during World War II, this Jewish woman survived life events that were no less horrific.

Wanda Wolosky was one of seven Holocaust survivors who visited Fort Huachuca and shared her story on May 15 during the fort’s Days of Remembrance observance. Her message — remember the atrocities of our past to prevent the injustices of our future.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Wolosky and her mother lived in the Warsaw Ghetto from 1940 to 1943. After the Ghetto Uprising in April 1943, they went into hiding.

In the summer of 1944, there was a Polish uprising in Warsaw. When the Germans returned to Warsaw, the pair was forced to march to a camp. While passing a small town en route, a woman in the crowd noticed them and took Wolosky and her mother in. They stayed until the Russian Army liberated Poland.

In 1950 the mother and daughter emigrated to Israel where Wolosky was accepted and served in the Israeli army in the Military Police K-9 Corps. In 1957 Wolosky emigrated to the United States.
Wolosky’s personal struggle started at age 5 in the preschool she was attending before World War II. As one of three Jewish girls attending, she was called a “dirty Jew,” and “Christ killer” and would often come home confused and crying.

In 1939, planes began to fly over the city. Her father and uncle went to Russia, but, once there, her father refused to become a Russian citizen and was shot.

Bombs began to fall in Warsaw, and Wolosky experienced what war was like as houses were destroyed and people killed. The Jewish section of Warsaw was the worst hit. Food and water supplies were depleted and the people began to starve.

After one month, the Polish surrendered and the Germans marched into Warsaw. The Jews were told they needed delousing. The women had to strip naked and were doused with DDT, a toxic substance no longer being used, while the male Soldiers watched, laughing.

Food lines were established for the starving people, but Jews were beaten if they got into a food line. Once, the mother and daughter were given two loaves of bread, something that was “unbelievable, since nobody got two loaves of bread.” When a neighbor woman protested, Wolosky’s mother took one loaf of bread and gave it to her although the family desperately needed the food. Ironically, this act would later save the lives of Wolosky and her mother.

It was not safe to venture out at night. Any woman who did was accused of smuggling and told to remove her clothes or be cavity searched.

Men were beaten or tortured daily. One was made to carry heavy blocks of ice until his hands were so badly frozen they needed amputation. Others were made to clean latrines using the clothes on their backs which they were then forced to wear home from their labors.

Germans could enter any home at any time and take what they wanted. If the Jews protested, everyone in the house was tortured or killed. Jewish professionals — doctors and teachers — couldn’t practice. Businessmen could not run their shops People could withdraw only very small sums of money from their bank accounts to get by. When food was available, Jews got 184 calories — if they were lucky.

“There was no work, no money, and starvation set in. But somehow, life was going on,” Wolosky said.

The Germans forced the Jews to relocate on very short notice to a single area, close to the railroad tracks, the Warsaw Ghetto, where they lived in very close, cramped quarters. “In an area made for a quarter million, they put half a million people,” Wolosky explained.

Since there was no transportation, they could only take what they could carry. The Jews were forced to build a wall around the ghetto, using salvaged materials they were required to clean and pay for. The 10-foot wall was topped with broken glass or barbed wire. German soldiers and German, Polish and Jewish police staffed the gates and access was denied. Only a Jewish kitchen kept people from starving.

“We’d get a slice of bread, maybe a potato peel in water as a soup,” Wolosky stated.
She described how children lay in the streets with pipe-stem arms and legs and distended bellies, starving, without the strength to stand.

“There was dead lying in the street, but you did not pay attention; you got so used to it,” Wolosky said. “It could be tomorrow that it was you lying there. The smell of death was everywhere.

She told how once, when she and her mother were outdoors, a Schutzstaffel “protective squadron” (SS) officer was walking on the other side of the street. Because a child was not quick enough to get out of the way, the man picked him up by his feet, bashed his head on a wall and dropped the dead child in the gutter.

Anyone out on the street after curfew was shot. If no one was out, people were pulled from their houses and killed.

People smuggled children out of the ghetto. Those who were caught were tortured and killed. Wolosky knew of only one child smuggler who survived after saving more than 2,500 children.
Women and children slipped out of the ghetto when they could and smuggled small amounts of food. “They could not hide it. They just took enough so the family could live for another day,” Wolosky said. It became harder and harder to get out, she explained, and often they’d go for days without eating.

Once, a friend took Wolosky to his house overnight and gave her some pork belly to smuggle in, wrapping it around her stomach, covering it with her coat.

As they returned through the checkpoint, the SS put his hand on her shoulder, asking Wolosky if she was cold “my child.”
“I was shaking with every pore of my body,” she explained, “because if that hand had gone a little lower, it would not be ‘my child.’ It would be a bullet through my head.”

Wolosky explained how, each day, a train would come and thousands of people would be packed in like sardines. No one knew where they were going. Later it was learned that they were going to Treblinka or Auschwitz where they were divided into groups. The old and weak went directly to the gas chamber.

Every day, the numbers of people shipped out of Warsaw were increased and the wait to board trains got longer. The most beautiful women were raped, then killed.

One day when they left the ghetto, her mother took her and said, “We are not going back. No matter what happens, we are not going back.” Wolosky described how the two of them slept under bridges, in the streets and one day, the woman to whom her mother had once given the loaf of bread offered the pair a place to stay — a tiny building in a cemetery.

“In those days, you never knew who your friends were, who your enemy was,” Wolosky said. “You didn’t know if they were going to take you to the police and you’d get shot. They’d get paid [to turn you in].

“Every day, she’d come and share food with us.

“You never know how a loaf of bread can change a life, save your life,” Wolosky said.
Eventually, some people escaped from the concentration camps and those in the ghetto learned what was going on. They were incredulous that the educated, generous German people would commit such atrocities.

After the Polish uprising took place and the mother and daughter spent more time in hiding, the pair’s worst days ended. In 1948, when the United Nations designated the State of Israel a Jewish nation, they put in paperwork to emigrate. It took two years, but they were finally able to relocate.
“That was one of my happiest moments, when I left Poland,” Wolosky stated.

The Holocaust survivor emigrated to the United States in 1957. She and her husband were married in 1958 and later spent a few years in Israel before returning to the United States where they now reside in Green Valley, Arizona. She has two children.

“I was in the Israeli army. My husband was in the military. My daughter works for the [U.S.] Army. A son-in-law is in the [U.S.] Army. We are an Army Family,” she said.